Category Archives: The learning circle

Learning to learn

As some of you may know, I’m trying to learn to Hula-Hoop (not sure it should be written with capital ‘H’ and ‘H’ and is it a verb?) To help the process, I hope, I’ve now decided to set a target – 30 minutes by 30 January –  watch this space for updates if you can be bothered.

I’m planning to learn through YouTube videos and with support from my wife (who can do it already). She says it’s easy, but this observation is not particularly helpful because most people who can already do something – like riding a bike – have usually forgotten the trials, tribulations and frustrations of the learning process.

But I know that encouragement is important – which is why I’ll never forgive my daughter’s teacher from primary school. Two weeks into her first term, the teacher in question said our daughter was useless at maths. Our daughter has lived with that assessment – which proved to be wrong – for the past 20 years, and we wonder how many other lives have been blighted by that teacher’s thoughtlessness and insensitivity.

I’m not setting myself up as some armchair expert on teaching (but I have done two train-the-trainer courses…) – it’s easy to criticise – but I know the basic principles:

Make it fun. Apparently humour uses both sides of the brain – the logical left side and the creative right side – so when you’re having a good time learning something you tend to absorb the information better. And, of course, it makes you keener to learn other things.

Encourage learners. Our train-the-trainer tutor not only made our studying fun, he also said there were few rules about how to teach well but he did say that encouragement will always get your learner further faster, than by being critical in a negative way (like our daughter’s maths teacher two decades ago…)

It’s all about the learner, not the teacher. While training is something of a performance, the audience’s needs must always come first. You may have all the right skills and use the techniques correctly, but if the learner doesn’t learn, you’ve failed.

We all learn in different ways. Broad learning styles can, and have, been defined for many decades. But what works for you will be very personal (I learn by reading and doing) and knowing your particular learning style can help you make better progress, and help your teacher get you there faster.

Be clear about ‘learning objectives’.  That’s just a posh way of suggesting you should know why you’re learning and how you will measure success. Which bring us back to my target to be able to Hula-Hoop for 30 seconds by 30 January.

I’ll let you know how I get on and I’ll also be publishing further blog posts in this new ‘learning circle’ series throughout 2018.

Further reading: Learning Styles